To the Editor:
There seems to be little unanimity among Americans as to what constitutes patriotism. And yet we all, as a rule, hold the concept in the highest regard. Recently, friends volunteered that they rarely watch professional football anymore because of the players who were kneeling during the national anthem. For my friends, static traditions seem to be the “gold standard of patriotism.” I suspect many agree with them.
That is not how I see it. Standing for the anthem, saying the Pledge, and similar traditions, require no sacrifice or anything of us. Neither is the country moved forward in any meaningful way. While nothing is inherently wrong with these actions, they do appear superficial when compared to players calling attention to injustice — something I communicated to my friends. And by the way, Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying, ” Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”
Patriotism needs to incorporate more than symbols if we define it as devotion to the common good. Embracing this more expansive definition would likely see citizens aspire to a number of actions such as: civic engagement, standing up for justice, extending kindness and empathy for all, dealing honestly with others, avoiding reckless and wasteful use of resources including the way we drive, making life easier for others when it is in our power, and informing ourselves to enable us to think critically about issues, to name a few.
At this time, we could certainly use a national conversation about patriotism. We should also never concede that our patriotic duty has been fulfilled as soon as we salute the flag, stand for the national anthem, or say the Pledge.
— Larry Brown